United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MAX S. COPE, Plaintiff,
KAY IVEY, ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, and VERNON BARNETT, Defendants.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
July 23, 2019 order, the Court asked pro se
plaintiff Max S. Cope to file an amended complaint alleging
facts “that enable him to avoid the Tax Injunction
Act.” (Doc. 5). In response, Mr. Cope filed an amended
complaint, alleging that he has been fighting with the
Alabama Department of Revenue since 2009, that tax
assessments occurred in 2014 and 2015, and that he filed suit
in the Montgomery County Circuit Court in 2017. (Doc. 11, p.
1; Doc. 1, p. 8). These facts, Mr. Cope contends, show that
the state “tax assessments have been anything but
speedy nor [sic] plain” and that the Tax Injunction Act
should not deprive this Court of jurisdiction. (Doc. 11, p.
1). For the reasons stated below, the Court concludes that it
lacks jurisdiction and dismisses Mr. Cope's case without
Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1341, provides that federal
district courts “shall not enjoin, suspend or restrain
the assessment, levy or collection of any tax under State law
where a plain, speedy and efficient remedy may be had in the
courts of such State.” Hibbs v. Winn, 542 U.S.
88, 107 (2004). Under the TIA, the Court may not decide Mr.
Cope's case if two conditions exist: (1) the relief
requested by Mr. Cope would enjoin, suspend, or restrain a
state tax assessment; and (2) the state of Alabama gives Mr.
Cope a plain, speedy, and efficient remedy.
with the type of relief requested, in his amended complaint,
Mr. Cope no longer seems to expressly request injunctive
relief to prevent the state of Alabama from assessing taxes
against him. (Doc. 11, p. 2) (“I should not have filed
this case based on an injunction . . . .”)). To the
extent that Mr. Cope still seeks an injunction, such a
request “plainly constitutes the type of relief that
would enjoin, suspend, or restrain a tax assessment and thus
meets the first requirement of the TIA bar.” Kelly
v. Ala. Dep't of Revenue, 638 Fed.Appx. 884, 889
(11th Cir. 2016).
relief that Mr. Cope requests is tantamount to injunctive
relief. Mr. Cope contends that the State of Alabama
fraudulently collected taxes from him and that he wants to
“file suit for monies to be refunded after the tax is
paid” and “monies held from [his] federal
refunds.” (Doc. 11, p. 3). The Eleventh Circuit has
concluded that the TIA and principles of comity “bar
claims for damages because a monetary award against the state
or its tax administrators would have the same detrimental
effect on the state as equitable relief, and would dampen
state tax collectors.” Kelly, 638 Fed.Appx. at
889 (citing A Bonding Co. v. Sunnuck, 629 F.2d 1127,
1133 (5th Cir. 1980)).
Mr. Cope effectively is seeking relief that would enjoin,
suspend, or restrain a tax assessment. All of Mr. Cope's
claims against the defendants arise from an allegedly
wrongful assessment of state income taxes by the Alabama
Department of Revenue and a later failure of Alabama
Department of Revenue employees to fix that error. Granting
Mr. Cope monetary relief for either reason would require this
Court to interfere with Alabama's tax system. Thus, the
TIA bar applies to Mr. Cope's case if Alabama meets
“certain minimal procedural” requirements and
gives Mr. Cope a “plain, speedy, and efficient”
remedy. See California v. Grace Brethren Church, 457
U.S. 393, 411 (1982); Amos v. Glynn Cty. Bd. of Tax
Assessors, 347 F.3d 1249, 1256 (11th Cir. 2003).
general, a “plain, speedy and efficient remedy”
requires a state court to give the taxpayer “a full
hearing and judicial determination at which he may raise
any and all constitutional objections to the tax.”
Colonial Pipeline Co. v. Collins, 921 F.2d 1237,
1244 (11th Cir. 1991). Under Alabama law, taxpayers have the
right to petition for a refund of taxes paid to the state,
appeal the denial of such petitions to the Alabama circuit
courts, and raise federal constitutional challenges to state
taxes in those same courts. See Ala. Code §
40-2A-7(b)(5) (2013); AT&T Corp. v. Surtees, 953
So.2d 1240, 1243-46 (Ala. Civ. App. 2006) (overturning the
trial court's dismissal of the plaintiff's
constitutional claims against an Alabama state tax
assessment). When tax assessments were entered against him,
Mr. Cope had the right, under Alabama Code §
40-2A-7(b)(5), to appeal a final assessment to an appropriate
Alabama state circuit court within 30 days. Ala. Code §
40-2A-7(b)(5). This appeals process has been deemed adequate
to provide a “plain, speedy and efficient remedy”
for Tax Injunction Act purposes. Kelly, 638
Fed.Appx. at 891 (citing Lasker Boiler & Eng'g
Corp. v. Hamm, 328 F.2d 429, 429-30 (5th Cir. 1964));
see also Gibson v. Gaines, 2006 WL 858336 *2 (11th
Cir. April 4, 2006).
the Court concludes that the relief requested by Mr. Cope
would enjoin, suspend, or restrain a state tax assessment and
that the state of Alabama gives Mr. Cope a plain, speedy, and
efficient remedy. Consequently, because it may not provide
relief to Mr. Cope under the Tax Injunction Act, the Court
dismisses Mr. Cope's case without prejudice.
Court acknowledges Mr. Cope's statement indicating his
ability and willingness to pay the required filing fee to
proceed without an in forma pauperis designation.
(Doc. 10, p. 1). Because the Court is dismissing his lawsuit
without prejudice, Mr. Cope may file a new action in federal
court should Mr. Cope allege a viable claim under the Tax
Injunction Act, and Mr. Cope may pursue his constitutional
challenges to his tax assessments in an Alabama state court.
See Surtees, 953 So.2d at 1243-46 (overturning the
trial court's dismissal of the plaintiffs constitutional
claims against an Alabama state tax assessment). The Court
understands Mr. Cope's frustration with the available
state processes, but, as stated, under the Tax Injunction
Act, those processes are adequate to deprive this Court of
its ability to consider Mr. Cope's claims on the record
in this case. Kelly, 638 Fed.Appx. at 891.
Court will enter a separate order closing this case. The
Court asks the Clerk to please mail a copy of this order to
Mr. Cope's address of record.
 In Bonner v. Prichard, 661
F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981), the Eleventh Circuit
adopted as binding precedent the decisions of the former
Fifth Circuit handed down on ...